Home country: Canada
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 30,072
Home country: Canada
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 30,072
It is always gratifying to see regulatory agencies actually do their job. If those regulatory agencies whose job it is to protect the public from false or harmful medical advertising, products, or services thoroughly did their job, so-called “alternative medicine” would cease to exist.
Recently the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK issued a judgment about advertising for homeopathy http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2013/7/Society-of-Homeopaths/SHP_ADJ_157043.aspx , specifically by the Society of Homeopaths. They had been receiving a number of complaints. After thorough investigation, and considering the response from the homeopaths, they came to two basic conclusions: homeopaths are engaging in false advertising by claiming that homeopathy is a proven treatment for specific indications when the evidence does not support those claims, and homeopaths sometimes “discourage essential medical treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.”
The ASA specifically investigated the following advertising and claims:
1. ad (a) could discourage essential treatment for depression, a medical condition for which medical supervision should be sought, and misleadingly implied that homeopathic remedies could alleviate symptoms of depression;
After reviewing the evidence provided by the Society for Homeopaths each decision was upheld. In other words, the Society was given the opportunity to provide evidence to substantiate their claims. After reviewing that evidence the ASA concluded that the evidence did not adequately support the efficacy claims being made. (For some reason a specific description of the evidence for Vertigo is missing from the page, which seems like a simple oversight.)
Homeopathy is quackery of the highest order.
Posted by SidDithers | Tue Jul 9, 2013, 11:01 AM (5 replies)
Since I’ve been on a bit of a roll with respect to acupuncture over the last week or so, I thought I’d just round out the trilogy with one more post. One myth that acupuncture apologists like to promote relentlessly is that acupuncture is completely harmless, that it almost never causes complications or problems. While it’s true that acupuncture is relatively safe, it still involves sticking needles into the skin, and, given that, it would be delusional to think that there couldn’t be injury caused by that. Rarely, however, have I seen a story like this from Canada reported in the National Post, Canadian Olympian’s ‘nightmare’ after acupuncture needle collapses her lung. It is the story of what happened to Kim Ribble-Orr, a world-class judoka who had competed in the Olympics in 2000 and harboring dreams of competing in the Olympics again, as a mixed martial artist. Those dreams were cast in doubt by a stray acupuncture needle:
When a massage therapist tried to treat the headaches she suffered after a 2006 car crash with acupuncture, however, he set off a cascade of health problems that would shatter Ms. Ribble-Orr’s sports-centred life — and raise questions about the popular needle therapy.
Ribble-Orr had suffered many injuries due to her competition, including a dislocated elbow and shoulder, a broken hand, head injuries and repeated knee injuries. She had overcome them all to compete again, but appears unable to overcome this one. Basically, what happened is that in 2006, Ribble-Or was trying to get into mixed martial arts competition and was eying a job as a police officer. However, she was also recovering from injuries suffered in an auto collision and seeing Scott Spurrell, a massage therapist who had learned acupuncture during a weekend course at a local university. She was suffering from pounding headaches, and Spurrell convinced her that he could relieve those headaches by inserting a two inch needle, according to the disciplinary ruling, “into a muscle located between the clavicle bone and ribs.” From the description, it’s not clear to me exactly which muscle they meant, although it could conceivably have been the scalenes, the sternocleidomastoid, or perhaps even just the pectoralis major. Whatever muscle Spurrell was targeting, going between the clavicle and the ribs is basically where surgeons stick the needle when trying to place central venous catheter into the subclavian vein, and, yes, a pneumothorax is a known potential complication of placing such lines. What also puzzles me is how on earth Spurrell could have stuck the needle in deep enough to cause a pneumothorax? It would be one thing if Ribble-Orr were a fragile little old lady, but she wasn’t. She was an athlete, presumably with well-developed musculature. It would take a lot to get a needle through all of that muscle to get to the pleural cavity.
All medicine is a risk-benefit analysis. All effective treatments have risks, and those risks have to be weighed against the potential benefits. When the benefits are significant (e.g., saving life), then greater risks are tolerable. When the potential benefits are minimal, then even minor risks might not be acceptable. When the potential benefits are none, no risk is acceptable. That is the case for acupuncture. It does not work, no matter how much acupuncturists try to prove it does.
How the fuck could someone believe that sticking a needle into the chest could relieve headaches?
Posted by SidDithers | Tue Jul 9, 2013, 10:50 AM (39 replies)
Seen at scienceblogs:
Spoken word from a mom who's had enough of having to feed her child in toilet stall.
This is a righteous rant.
Her comments about the video:
I wrote this poem in a public toilet after my 6 month old baby fell asleep. I was in town on my own a lot with her and the first time I fed her someone commented that I should stay home. Baby's need breastfed every 2-3 hours often. It's impossible to run home. It's a stupid argument anyway. But I was embarrassed and for 6 months took her into toilets when I was alone without the support of boyfriend, friends, mum etc. I hate that I did that but I was nervous, tired and felt awkward. And now I find it weird that our TVs, media etc never show breastfeeding in soaps, cartoons, anything. That we and the US are so bloody scared of it. It's weird. I find our culture weird and even weirder, when people are so strapped for cash. It is costing parents a huge amount of money paying for something which most of us, those of us who are lucky enough for our bodies to do so, get for free. I have a lot of mates who complain they're broke but stop breastfeeding cos they feel awkward, and pay for formula. Why are we paying billionaire companies for something our bodies produce for FREE. It's really good marketing that we feel so wrong doing something like this I think. And it makes me sadder every day. Next we'll be buying sweat in bottles from Tescos and rubbing it on our skin paying for electronic books to read nighttime stories. Oh, wait...
Posted by SidDithers | Sat Jul 6, 2013, 04:29 PM (18 replies)
More Tooth Fairy Science: Acupuncture does not improve in vitro fertilization success rates, no matter what acupuncturists say
Here we go again.
Oh, well. These things come in waves, and sometimes I have theme weeks. Right now, this week appears to be developing into a week of quackademic medicine involving dubious acupuncture studies. Yesterday, it was acupuncture for lymphedema after breast cancer surgery, a study coming right about what is rapidly becoming the Barad-dûr of cancer quackademia, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. How a hospital that is so awesome in every other way can have such a blind spot bigger than the Eye of Sauron, I don’t know, but it does, and the result is a steady stream of embarrassing forays into quackademic medicine like yesterday’s.
Of course, there is one institution that far surpasses even MSKCC in the power of its quackademic woo, and that is the University of Maryland, home to Brian Berman, king of acupuncture quackademia, and my Google Alerts did there job and, well, alerted me to a new meta-analysis published online late last week in the Journal of Human Reproduction Update. Berman is the corresponding author (of course!), and a research associate by the name of Eric Manheimer is the lead author, and together with other colleagues, they have produced yet another fine analysis of tooth fairy medicine entitled, The effects of acupuncture on rates of clinical pregnancy among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Now, remember all the things I said about the utter lack of prior plausibility for acupuncture for treating lymphedema? You remember, how there’s no plausible biological mechanism that would lead one even to suspect that sticking needles into parts of the body completely unrelated to the physiological mechanisms that result in lymphedema after mehanical interruption of regional lymphatics by surgery? All of that goes double—nay, triple!—for using acupuncture for infertility and improving the pregnancy rates after in vitro fertilization (IVF). I mean, seriously. Think about it. How on earth would sticking needles into the skin improve the odds of conception after this procedure? It wouldn’t, and it doesn’t. That doesn’t stop acupuncturists and acupuncture apologists from heavily selling acupuncture as somehow managing to do just that, against all physiology and reality.
So here’s how the systematic review is being sold:
Acupuncture, when used as a complementary or adjuvant therapy for in vitro fertilization (IVF), may be beneficial depending on the baseline pregnancy rates of a fertility clinic, according to research from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The analysis from the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine is published in the June 27 online edition of the journal Human Reproduction Update.
It’s hard not to be a bit snarky here and say that if your clinic is doing well with its pregnancy rate, then obviously you don’t need mumbo-jumbo. However, if you’re not doing so well, maybe some bread and circuses will help.
Always good stuff from Orac.
Posted by SidDithers | Fri Jul 5, 2013, 10:18 AM (4 replies)
Saw this at scienceblogs tonight:http://scienceblogs.com/erv/2013/06/20/its-true-kid-cured-of-cancer-with-alternative-therapy/
Basically, little girl dying of leukaemia, out of options, tries radical experimental treatment being developed at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. There, researchers have genetically modified HIV to attack cancer cells.
NY Times story here:
Posted by SidDithers | Thu Jun 20, 2013, 11:36 PM (21 replies)
Countering ideologically motivated bad science, pseudoscience, misinformation, and lies is one of the main purposes of this blog. Specifically, we try to combat such misinformation in medicine; elsewhere Steve and I, as well as some of our other “partners in crime” combat other forms of pseudoscience. During the nearly five year existence of this blog, we’ve covered a lot of topics in medicine that tend to be prone to pseudoscience and quackery. Oddly enough, there’s one topic that we haven’t really written much about at all, and that’s genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs, as you know, are proliferating, and it’s quite worth discussing the potential and risks of this new technology, just as it is worthwhile to discuss the potential benefits versus the risks of any new technology that can impact our health, not to mention the health of the planet. Unfortunately, GMOs have become a huge political issue, and, I would argue, they have become just as prone to pseudoscience, misinformation, and bad science as vaccines, with a radical group of anti-GMO activists who are as anti-science as any antivaccinationist or quack.
Leave it to that quackery promoter to rule all quackery promoters, Mike Adams, to give me just the opportunity to show you what I mean. Over the last couple of weeks, Mike has been in a fine lather about GMOs, with multiple posts with titles such as The GMO debate is over; GM crops must be immediately outlawed; Monsanto halted from threatening humanity and The evil of Monsanto and GMOs explained: Bad technology, endless greed and the destruction of humanity. In other words, it’s a series of post with Adams’ typical hyperbole. If you were to believe him, GMOs are the product of a plot by Satan, Monsanto, big pharma, and the government, and he’s not sure which one of these is the most evil of the bunch.
Not to be outdone, that other quackery supporter vying with Mike Adams to be the quackery supporter to rule all quackery supporters, Joe Mercola, also weighed in with a post entitled First-Ever Lifetime Feeding Study Finds Genetically Engineered Corn Causes Massive Tumors, Organ Damage, and Early Death. It also turns out that Mike Adams had pontificated about this very same study a couple of days before Mercola with a title equally ominous, Shock findings in new GMO study: Rats fed lifetime of GM corn grow horrifying tumors, 70% of females die early. Whenever I see the cranks pile on a study like this, my curiosity is piqued. I also noticed that Steve Novella had already discussed the study that had this not-so-dynamic duo in such a frothy lather. Of course, as you know, that a blogger as awesome as our fearless leader had covered a topic never stopped me from pontificating about the very same study before (well, actually, it has, but in this case it wasn’t enough to stop me). Besides, these sorts of studies are right up my alley, given that I’m a cancer researcher, and the study being touted as “smoking gun” evidence that GMOs are pure evil is such a an incompetently designed and performed study that it actually irritated me more than the usual bit of bad science that I discuss on occasion.
There’s a lot in common between anti-GMO activists and antivaccine activists. Perhaps the most prominent similarity is philosophical. Both groups fetishize the naturalistic fallacy, otherwise known as the belief that if it’s “natural” it must be good (or at least better than anything man-made or “artificial”). In the case of antivaccine activists, the immune response caused by vaccines is somehow “unnatural” and therefore harmful and evil, even though the mechanisms by which the immune system responds to vaccines are the same or similar to how it responds to “natural” antigens. That’s the whole idea, to stimulate the immune system to think that you’ve had the disease without actually giving you the disease, thus stimulating long term immunity to the actual disease! In the case of anti-GMO activists, the same idea appears to prevail, namely that, because GMOS are somehow “unnatural,” they must be harmful and evil. That’s not to say that they might not have problems and issues that need to be dealt with, but the apocalyptic language used by many of the anti-GMO activists like Mike Adams and Joe Mercola is so far over-the-top that it is very much like the language of the antivaccine movement. In fact, not surprisingly, antivaccinationists are often anti-GMO as well, and vice-versa, an example of crank magnetism in action. Indeed, Joe Mercola himself is one of the biggest backers of California Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of GMO-based food, having donated $1.1 million so far.
Posted by SidDithers | Thu Jun 20, 2013, 09:06 AM (40 replies)
A self-described psychic who triggered a media frenzy when she told authorities a Liberty County couple had a mass grave on their property has been ordered to pay the couple $6.8 million.
A Dallas County judge issued the judgment May 7 against Presley "Rhonda" Gridley, the sole remaining defendant in a lawsuit filed a year ago.
"Whether it will be collectible, we're going to pursue that," said Dallas attorney Andrew Sommerman.
He represents plaintiffs Joe Bankston and Gena Charlton in the suit that has concluded, except for efforts to collect the judgment.
And if the Sheriff had told the "psychic" to fuck off, none of this would have happened.
Posted by SidDithers | Sat Jun 15, 2013, 03:14 PM (33 replies)
Sometimes, in the course of blogging, I come across a story that I don’t know what to make of. Sometimes, it’s a quack or a crank taking a seemingly science-based position. Sometimes it’s something out of the ordinary. Other times, it’s a story that’s just weird, such that I strongly suspect that something else is going on but can’t prove it. So it was a few months ago when I came across the story of Alex Spourdalakis, a 14-year-old autistic boy who became a cause célèbre of the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism.
I first noticed the story in early March when perusing AoA to see what the merry band of antivaccine propagandists was up to I came across a post by Lisa Goes entitled Day 19: Chicago Hospital Locks Down Autistic Patient. In the post was a shocking picture of a large 14-year-old boy in a a hospital bed in four point restraints. He was naked, except for a sheet covering his genitals. A huge gash was torn in the bedsheet, revealing the black vinyl of the hospital bed beneath. The boy’s name, we were informed, was Alex Spourdalakis. Further down in the post was another, equally shocking, picture of Alex that, according to Goes, showed severe dermatitis on Alex’s back due to the hospital sheets. The photos shocked me for two reasons. First, if the story was as advertised (something to be doubted always about anything posted to AoA), for once I thought that I might be agreeing with Goes and thinking that AoA was doing a good thing. Second, however, I was extremely disturbed by the publication of such revealing photos of the boy. Undoubtedly, Alex’s mother must have given permission. What kind of mother posts pictures like that of her son for all the world to see? Then there appeared a Facebook page, Help Support Alex Spourdalakis, which pled for readers to help the Spourdalakis family.
As I said, something didn’t seem right.
Now I know that something definitely wasn’t right, but I still can’t yet figure out what was wrong at that time three months ago. What is wrong now is that over the weekend Alex was murdered by his mother and caregiver, stabbed to death, in fact. The murder was carefully premeditated and truly gruesome:
Convinced that Alex Spourdalakis’ severe autism was growing worse, his mother and caregiver allegedly planned for at least a week to kill the River Grove teenager and themselves.
Harsh? Yes. But it rings true. The entire narrative of the autism biomed movement is that autism “stole” the parents’ “real child” away from them. Since the idea that vaccines cause autism is basically holy writ for the autism biomed movement, that means vaccines “stole” the real child away by making him autistic. Parents who try to “recover” that “real” child are thus viewed as heroic, rather than abusive, because they’re willing to do whatever it takes to defeat the scourge of autism (and vaccines) in order to rescue the “real” child within. One can’t help but wonder whether what was really happening was that DFCS was going to put Alex into a conventional long term care facility because his mother clearly couldn’t handle him anymore and was treating him with autism boomed. Unfortunately, it appears from what we know right now that Alex’s mother seems to have thought that he would be off dead than not being given access to what she viewed as “curative” treatments for autism. Events and evidence from the investigation and trial might prove that initial assessment incorrect, but for now it seems to fit with what we know. Was Alex collateral damage in this never-ending war by antivaccinationists against autism? Although what we know now suggests that this might be the case, we just don’t know yet. We’ll have to keep an eye on the results of the investigation into Alex’s murder to find out.
Strange, very sad story. Much more detail, including a guest appearance by none other than Andrew Wakefield, at the link.
Posted by SidDithers | Sat Jun 15, 2013, 12:11 PM (13 replies)
How can environmental groups and media outlets maintain that they are advocates of science, and not ideology, when they engage in the anti-science Luddism of GMO fearmongering? The potential of this anti-science behavior to poison their credibility on global climate change is real, as there is an obvious comparison between their flawed risk assessment on GM foods being compared to their legitimate risk assessments on issues of global climate change and pollution.
One of the major arguments of environmental groups on global warming is that there is overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. This consensus, which is represented by the IPCC and supported by the national academies and scientific societies of every country in the world, is that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that human activities add enough of this heat-trapping gas to warm the planet. This is a valid argument. When one finds oneself on the opposite of the scientific consensus of such esteemed bodies as the NAS, the Royal Society, the IPCC, etc., you should be worried. If you don’t have an overwhelming level of evidence and a solid body of literature backing you up, you should consider a period of introspection and self-evaluation, because you might just be a crank or denialist. Most cranks don’t have this capability, instead they have conspiracy theories, and a set of ready-made logical fallacies to throw at their critics like “you’re just a shill for x”, where x is variably big pharma, monsanto, corporations in general, big government, grant money, environmental groups, the democratic party, the republican party, or whatever other bogeyman the crank hates. If they throw in a reference to how they’re just like Galileo, we’ll happily give them the crank stamp and call it a day.
And what exactly is the ideology that ties together Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Mike Shermer, Dave Gorski (who thinks the anti-vaxx comparison is more apt), Steve Novella, and Keith Kloor? Could it be skepticism? Respect for science? It sure isn’t politics (Shermer is even a libertarian – ewwwww). None of us works for any of these companies, or receives money from them (although I hear Keith is in bed with Monsanto these days). That won’t stop us all from being called a “shill” in every comment thread in which we express skepticism of the often outrageous, science-fiction claims of anti-GM advocates like Jeffrey Smith. So what’s this ideology that binds us all together on the ludicrous nature arguments made against GMO, other than a hatred of bullshit?
So Laskaway is partially correct, on one side we have groups with a specific and obvious bias with a high probability of ideology clouding their reason on science. On the other side we have the AAAS, the European Commission, the Royal Society, the National Academy of Science Institute of Medicine, and a diverse group of skeptic and science writers from Richard Dawkins to PZ Myers to Dave Gorski and Steve Novella. Feel free any time to take these two weak papers that show nothing, and wave it under our nose and call us the ideologues.
Posted by SidDithers | Sat Jun 15, 2013, 11:43 AM (10 replies)
They can’t get a hearing on the real Capitol Hill, so this week believers in a massive government coverup of extraterrestrial life held their own with former members of Congress. Josh Dzieza reports
After truthers and false flags, an old-school conspiracy theory with benign little green men, flying saucers, and midnight visits by mysterious government agents is almost refreshing. Though you wouldn’t know it from the weary faces of the former members of Congress listening to testimony this week.
Since Monday, five former representatives and a former senator have listened to witnesses talk about a massive decades-long government coverup of extraterrestrial life. The meeting is being billed as the “Citizen Hearing on Disclosure,” and it looks in some respects like a real hearing. Witnesses are sworn in, and there are members of Congress, albeit former ones who are getting paid $20,000 each to attend.
The faux hearing is the latest attempt by the Paradigm Research Group to bring attention to extraterrestrials. Its last was in 2011, when the White House responded to its petition by denying any extraterrestrial contact and politely referring them to real searches for alien life, like SETI. Paradigm plans to use footage from the panel, lent a bit of apparent authority by the former members of Congress, to make a movie about the alleged government coverup of alien life.
The group’s executive director, Stephen Bassett, told the New York Daily News that he initially reached out to 55 former members of Congress with an offer of $10,000 to attend. Not even Dennis Kucinich, who has spoken of his own UFO encounter before, took the deal. Bassett then doubled the offer and got six takers. They’re an eclectic bunch.
$20,000 for the week? Nice gig if you can get it. Then again, maybe that's a relatively cheap price for selling your name and reputation, to give credibility to a bunch of UFO loons.
Posted by SidDithers | Fri Jun 7, 2013, 12:31 AM (7 replies)